For the second year in a row, Lauren Bliss is trying to make life a little bit better for children staying at Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central Ohio.
Lauren, a 9-year-old fourth-grader at Chapman Elementary School, is collecting coloring books and crayons for the house, which provides a place to stay for families of seriously ill children.
The donation drive began Oct. 29 and extends through Nov. 16. Donors can drop off materials at Chapman or at any other school in the Dublin district and ask that they be sent to Chapman.
Lauren said she was inspired to start the project after a friend was hospitalized two years ago and mentioned she enjoyed receiving coloring books during her stay.
Last year, she was able to collect 160 coloring books from third-grade families. This year, she said she will do the drive again with families of third- and fourth-graders at her school and hopes to collect 200 coloring books to deliver at the beginning of December.
“I thought that it would be nice to make even more people happy,” she said.
Lauren’s teacher, Nick Bertrams, said he was blown away when he heard about his student’s efforts at parent-teacher conferences in October. Performing charitable activity is admirable, he said.
“To have that in you at 9 (years old) is pretty impressive to me,” he said.
Everything from large cash donations to coloring books are helpful for Ronald McDonald House, which runs nearly exclusively on volunteer labor, said Ryan Wilkins, senior director of communications and facilities at Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central Ohio.
Last year alone, Ronald McDonald House provided 82,000 nights – on average, housing about 50 children per night, he said.
The campus includes 137 guest rooms, Wilkins said, which many times are occupied by parents or siblings of children who are hospitalized.
Children also stay at Ronald McDonald House if they are undergoing outpatient care, he said.
The coloring books Lauren donates are provided to children via welcome bags families receive upon checking in, Wilkins said.
Other coloring books are provided to children in a nook in the kitchen area.
Emily Bliss said her daughter has always been empathetic, with a heart for service.
In addition to being a Sunday school teacher’s aide, Lauren helps bake at the Ronald McDonald House and participates in a 5K race for Sam’s Fans, a nonprofit organization that implements art and music therapy in children’s hospitals across the state.
Bliss said she wasn’t surprised when Lauren wanted to come up with her own way of giving back.
“A small act can have such a huge impact,” she said.